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Photo by Paul Jacob.

Photo by Paul Jacob.

I feel conflicted.

Due to the whole Caitlyn Jenner/ESPY and gay marriage in the USA thing last week, my dad wrote a lamenting post on Facebook about “the state of things” for Christians in America and got equally applauded and attacked.

The big surprise for me was that some of his attackers were my childhood friends. I’m not surprised they disagree with my dad; I’m surprised they were surprised by his post. I mean, my dad is the most conservative Christian I know. The fact that he considers gay marriage, nationwide, to be a bad thing should go without saying.

His post inspired a conversation between Jake and me. The conversation we had was a bit worrying, because we both realized it feels as though Christians can’t disagree with gay marriage without being vilified, which means people are being vilified for having an opinion, and we all have a right to our opinions … even if that opinion isn’t the cool, new trend on Twitter.

I know how I identify. I am:
Female
Christian
Pro-choice
Pro-gay marriage
An erotica author
A prison rights advocate
The proud owner of a .38 special named Annie Oakley

I’ve long since realized I’m not a republican or a democrat. I’m not liberal or conservative. I’m a Benedict Cumberbatch-loving geeky writer with a husband and two dogs. I dance in rainstorms and make people laugh with my creative usage of the f-word.

My most famous story to date is “Don’t Ball the Boss,” nominated for the much-coveted 2015 Pushcart Prize. It was about a highly inappropriate and hilarious gay man and his sexual fixation with his straight male boss, which got me (like my father) equally applauded and attacked. And I was writing fiction!

I know where I stand, philosophically and creatively, but I’m wary about discussing it. I’m getting a little shaky about being honest and having a voice—and what the hell is a writer without a voice? For instance, I wrote an article about Lana Del Rey fans months ago and was bludgeoned to death by cries of “slut shaming!” and “women’s rights!” and “you’re just old and bitter!”

Damn. I was just making a point about idol worship.

Despite negative feedback, I can’t shut up. I can’t keep my politically incorrect mouth restrained. I have an opinion, and I’m allowed to have my opinion. So is everyone else, even if I think it’s wrong. It’s an opinion. Without opinions, we’d live in a world of peace and harmony and … boredom.

I realize that someday soon, one of my labels—the Christian one—will become a minority. In fact, someday, I might be locked up because I pray every day and think God is a pretty cool dude. Like Daniel with the lions, I’ll be added to the menu, but not yet.

For now, I still have a voice. So with that voice, I’ll say, congrats on gay marriage, but let’s not slander people who are against it. Remember: it’s not Christian versus gay; it’s about all of us listening to and respecting each other.

A final word from the Man upstairs: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. … Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation.”

MSGI-charleston-savannah-multisport-12

Oh, city of raw oysters and lamplight,
Of uneven, brick sidewalks and Rainbow Row.
Dear haven of seafood cuisine and champagne,
Quiet jazz and Southern charm.

You embraced me—our two-year affair—
Welcomed a Yankee and called yourself “Home.”
In your arms, I felt love:
With you, with men, with myself.

When lonely, I walked the Battery.
When happy, I wandered East Bay.
When too hot, I hid in your restaurants.
When it snowed, I walked the Market in awe.

You were a place of love and loss—
But also of joy and never-ending beauty,
Of climbing vines and green gardens,
The smell of the sea and flooding streets.

I sang down your alleys.
I danced on your roofs.
I dawdled on street corners.
Cigarette smoke and a stolen kiss.

I left you too soon …
No longer did your sweaty summer arms surround me.
No longer did I hear the sound of the sea.

But even now, I hear you:
The tick of a quiet drum beat.
The clink of wine glasses.
The slide of an oyster, shucked.

From across the country, I cry for you, my beloved city.
I mourn the loss of peaceful walks, quiet talks.
Do dark alleys seem darker?
The music more subdued?

Don’t lose yourself, dear girl.
You are protected; you are loved.
The only red on your streets should be a spilled Bloody Mary.
The only scream … one of joy.

23BABADOOK2-articleLarge

If you know me at all, you know I love scary movies. I find them therapeutic, as in, “Well, at least I’m not THAT person, being chased by the psycho with the butcher knife!” Really puts life in perspective.

In the past week, I’ve watched three horror films: The Babadook, Oculus, and The Others. Two of these movies I watched alone, which meant I couldn’t go pee without first checking behind the shower curtain because YOU JUST NEVER KNOW.

Babadook is about a monster that pops out of a children’s book. Oculus is about a damn evil mirror. The Others is about … I can’t tell you, because it’ll ruin everything. That said, all three of these ghoulish, scream-worthy films had one thing in common: mad mommies. Crazy ladies. Bonkers beauties.

Got me thinking about the horror movies of my glorious youth. Remember them? Movies like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Going further back, Dracula and Frankenstein. These movies were about identifiable monsters: creatures (human and otherwise) that came for you in the night. These horror flicks gave you a villain and told you which way to run.

Flash to 2015, and although the monsters (and ghosts) are real, the main concern — the real fear — is mothers killing their own kids. Mothers gone mad. The monster is no longer something we run from but something within the people we love and trust the most.

Is the change because, in the glory days of horror, back when Stoker and Shelley were writing their masterpieces, we didn’t want to think that the monsters were, in fact, ourselves? In the cases of both Dracula and Frankenstein, the creatures were certainly metaphors of what humans could do to each other, but they were only that: metaphors.

Now, we see horrible things on the news — people killing each other, mothers drowning their children, mothers going mad — and we realize … The monsters are real.

There has been an outpouring of these crazy mommy movies in the past year. I don’t mean to discount gorgeous films like The Shining and Amityville Horror, in which daddy goes dark, but those 80s pics didn’t feel quite as upsetting. They weren’t as upsetting because, in the 80s, we still didn’t want to think about a mother killing her kids. Now, it happens. We watch the news; we watch the court cases. We shiver.

No longer are we running from guys in masks. If horror movies are any indication, it’s reality that truly scares us — what we are capable of — and human nature is a lot scarier than a guy with claws.

ClockworkCrown_331x500

Today … that’s right, TODAY … the much-anticipated sequel to Beth Cato’s Clockwork Dagger is available for purchase all the world over. Because I’m, like, important and stuff, I already read the sequel, Clockwork Crown, months ago, and I’m not exaggerating when I say you should buy your copy now.

Just for fun, I decided to pick Beth’s brain in the weirdest way possible: PICTURE ASSOCIATION! I sent her pictures; she sent me the first thing that popped into her head. Most of the images relate to Clockwork Crown, so enjoy this little visual tease and join the Cato Club today!

Tobias Sheck / Flickr

Tobias Sheck / Flickr

“What a moody, grim scene. It makes me think of the city of Mercia within my world of The Clockwork Dagger. It’s a massive sprawl of skyscrapers and factories, and no plants survive there. People suffer all kinds of respiratory illnesses and cancers. I could see this being a rare stand of woods downwind.”
Gremlin

Inti / Flickr

“AHHH. Scary 1980s gremlin! I never liked those movies when I was a kid. They were too creepy. I did want to channel some of those monstrous elements in my version of gremlins, though. My books show them as beings both cute and hideous. Plus, my gremlins can get wet AND be fed after midnight. Preferably, some cheese.”

Herbs

Sonny Abesamis / Flickr

“Herbs remind me of my heroine, Octavia. She needs particular blessed herbs to be able to call on magic to heal her patients. Gardening and herbs are her happiness.”

Kiss

The Prophet / Flickr

“Everything about this pictures screams TENSION. It’s ragged breaths and sweat and need. This is what I hope I’m evoking with Octavia and Alonzo. It’s a steampunk society and the gender dynamics are very Edwardian. I don’t depict any sex or raunchiness–heck, I’ve had reports from multiple 11-year-olds who loved The Clockwork Dagger–but the passion is there. The need is there. They may not be able to act on it, but when they eventually do? Oh yeah. Fireworks.”
Steampunk

Davide D’Amico / Flickr

“Gadgetry! This is one of the funnest things about writing steampunk. It’s an age of invention and whimsy. A lot of the action in my first book takes place on an airship. It’s not a fancy vessel but there’s still an air of sophistication about it.”
Tree

subflux / Flickr

“This pictures smells. Do you smell it, too? There’s the rankness of rotting leaves and drenched bark. Octavia worships a world tree known as the Lady. The Tree is the source of Octavia’s magic, her peace, her hope. You don’t often see a positive lead character of faith in fantasy novels, but Octavia definitely bucks that trend.”
White-Dress

Vanessa Porter / Flickr

“Octavia wears an enchanted white dress and apron that stay clean no matter the muck or blood. The magic absorbs the filth and uses it like energy. I really like the simplicity of the gown in this picture. It’s closer to my vision of her dress than the one on the first book cover; they needed to make the steampunk genre stronger as a selling point, and a World War I-style nurse outfit wouldn’t have evoked that. It all makes sense.”
Sad-Skeleton

University of Liverpool / Flickr

“Ah, bodies and bones. This actually puts me in mind of a certain character in Clockwork Crown that I can’t even mention because it’s such a big spoiler. Read the book and I bet you’ll think of the same person when you look at this image again!”
Just-for-Fun
“This cat makes me think of gremlins again–my gremlins! My main gremlin is Leaf, and he’s based a lot on my cat Palom. The frenzied antics, the mews, the demand for attention … those were all signature Palom. He succumbed to cancer a few years ago, and I pay tribute to him in the acknowledgments for Clockwork Crown. Here’s for you, furball!”
To buy your copy of Clockwork Crown, head to Amazon immediately. You’re gonna love it!
c/o Bald Pirate Photography

c/o Bald Pirate Photography

Thank goodness Tiffany Michelle Brown writes the creepy stuff … because, in person, she’s actually a very cheerful woman, and I fear she might be a serial killer if she didn’t write.

Her work has been published internationally in horror journals and will soon be included in a dark erotica anthology. Brown knows her “dark stuff,” but she always finds a way to weave a touch of humor (and sex) into her work.

SPIN is the newest addition to her arsenal: a time travel novelette that follows guilty guy Walter as he uses a fantastical record shop to travel back in time to fix something. I can’t tell you what, because you have to read to find out. The novelette is being released today, so if you like the cerebral and weird, buy your copy.

First, though, check out this interview with author Tiffany Michelle Brown. Get to know the woman before SPIN makes you rethink every decision you’ve ever made.

If you could time travel, would you?
I would be the first girl with a ticket! I would absolutely time travel, but for very different reasons than my characters in SPIN. I wouldn’t go back in time to try to change anything that’s happened in my life, but I would go back to have one hell of an adventure and to experience something new. I’m a big believer in doing things that challenge and scare you and get you out of your comfort zone, and wouldn’t time traveling be an awesome way to throw yourself off balance? I’d be a bundle of excited nerves at the prospect.

Follow up: where/when would you go?
I haven’t really thought about the “where” a whole lot, but I would definitely travel back to the 70s. SPIN is basically a love letter to what I consider a golden age of music. A lot of my personal vinyl collection is from the 70s. Marvin Gaye, Queen, Aretha Franklin, Cheap Trick, and Bill Withers: does it get much better than that?

Cover by Bryan Mok.

Cover by Bryan Mok.

Having my Walter, the protagonist of SPIN, travel back to the 70s was a real treat for me. As I was writing this story, I lived vicariously through Walter and imagined myself wearing bellbottoms, going to concerts, and making love like my life depended on it in the 70s.

What was the hardest part about writing SPIN?
Figuring out the middle of the story. Going into SPIN, I knew how the story would open and I had already determined the ending, but the middle was a mystery to me … just like time travel. I’m one of those authors who buckles herself in and enjoys the ride. I develop a setting, characters, and a conflict, and then I wait to see how it will play out. I surprised myself with the middle of SPIN. Characters appeared that I hadn’t dreamed up before I wrote them. Little plot twists suddenly exploded on my computer screen. And I was able to guide all of that back to the conclusion I wanted, which felt really amazing.

Gimme your SPIN fantasy movie cast.
Ooh, fantasy cast! Yes, let’s make this a movie! Okay…
Walter (old age) – Chris Noth
Walter (young) – Miles Teller
Max – Idris Elba
Ebony – Candice Patton
Faith – Rosario Dawson
Marie – Emma Watson
Jennifer – Christina Hendricks
Harrison – Dermot Mulroney
Andy – Chad Michael Murray

How much power does the past hold over us?
I think the past does hold power over us, but only as much as you’ll readily give it. Regret can be debilitating if you hang it around your neck and let it drag you down, which is the case for Walter in SPIN. Forgiveness is powerful and sometimes you have to forgive yourself for mistakes.

I’m a firm believer that everything that’s happened to me up until now has shaped who I am and how I interact with the world. If I dwell too much on the mistakes I’ve made (and there are many), it’s a quick tumble back in time and to a bad place. But if I recognize my past, make peace with it, and move forward, I have ultimate power over my destiny. And that’s something my past can never take away from me.

What do you hope people gain by reading SPIN?

First and foremost, I hope they are entertained and I hope they enjoy the ride! I also hope it allows readers to ask themselves that age old question: If you could go back in time to change something, would you? And would you be willing to endure the consequences should a paradigm shift occur?

Buy your copy of SPIN on Amazon today (and on Smashwords, too). To read more about Tiffany, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter!

a-fantastic-fear-of-everything-official-trailer-hd-simon-pegg

Obviously, what all writers look like.

I have step throat, and I’ve decided when my body is sick, my mind goes a little mental, so bear with me. As most of you know, I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. What does this mean? Well, it means I did not attend Phoenix ComicCon this past weekend, because HELL NO, I WON’T GO.

Several people asked if I would be attending, to which I responded, calmly, “Are you <censored> nuts?”

See, I have a two-hour maximum. Even with friends, it’s difficult for me to spend more than two hours outside my house, talking to people. Movie theaters are fine, because they’re dark, so I don’t feel like everyone is staring at me and waiting for me to say something completely inappropriate, as is my wont to do.

Also, crowds. I don’t do crowds. Makes me feel all itchy. Like fire ants are crawling up my nose.

Instead of leaving the house this weekend, I watched A Fantastic Fear of Everything with Simon Pegg: a movie about a writer who researches serial killers and, in turn, becomes convinced everyone is trying to kill him. Of course, I related.

1) As writers, we live outside our actual lives and in stories. Sometimes, waking up from stories can be jarring to the point of sudden screaming and/or asking the nearest person (usually my dog) what day it is.

2) The older I get, the weirder I get, which means my agoraphobia is getting worse.

Agoraphobia: “a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed.”

Common places to avoid:

Costco

Baby showers

Neil Gaiman book signings

Doctors’ offices … which is why I refused to make a doctor’s appointment until I was rolling, sobbing on the floor in two-day-old pajamas, and Jake said, “But really, dear.”

In an effort to recover (from strep throat), I sleep or write. I read Sherlock fan fiction. I call my family and tell them boring, useless things. I drink watered-down Gatorade and eat eggs.

In an effort to stop the Howard Hughes process … well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

I’ve heard of other writers worse than me. Children’s book writer/illustrator Adam Rex once said he’s been known to spend days in his office without noticing the passage of time. The fact that his wife is also a writer doesn’t aid in this, as she does the same thing, and suddenly, they’re both like, “Hey. Should we bathe?” as they run blindly into each other in the darkened hall.

I guess it helps to have a husband and friends who understand The Way I Am. Jake doesn’t push, and when my friends see that look in my eye (akin to a serial killer twitch), they usually just shuffle me toward the nearest exit.

Maybe it has to do with living in a big city. Everything’s just too … big. Or maybe it’s just being a weird writer person.

Whatever the reason, I have built a “nest” in my office composed of a heavy, winter comforter; two pillows; and the teddy bear from my childhood, know as “Bearenheart.” Plus some Halloween-colored twinkle lights. I go there and huddle after most business meetings, public speaking events, and walks to the mailbox.

Okay, I’m not that bad, but, no, I didn’t go to Phoenix ComicCon.

When you write fiction, you hope someone’s gonna like it. You never expect it’ll win an award, let alone TWO. My short experimental fiction piece A Man of Light and Scales placed second in the Maricopa Community Colleges District Writing Competition and second in Glendale Community College’s Traveler Competition. As these are both solely print journals, I now present the story for your online reading pleasure (even if my mom still doesn’t get the ending). Warning: explicit content and general mind-f**kery.

A Man of Light and Scales
By Sara Dobie Bauer

You meet him your second day in Charleston. More so, perhaps, you meet his violin. He’s wearing a suit you imagine cost as much as a car. No tie, which allows you a peek at his long, pale throat and into the shadowy place were neck meets chest. As he speaks to you, he’s still holding his violin: a red piece of wood with scratch marks and a faded veneer. You wonder at the abuse the instrument has taken but soon think these are not marks of abuse but marks of love—of devotion.

7ddf0379426a822a3033a26a364f9993You’re in a place called the Charleston Grill. Waiters scurry like albino beetles in white shirts and dark slacks. The restaurant smells of butter and fish but mostly butter. There’s a large framed photo of Billie Holiday on the back wall.

After the jazz quintet finishes their last set, you find out his name is Graydon Kelly and he would like to take you to dinner. At first, you think you should say no. He has that look about him: the thorn on the rose, the sugared rim of the poisoned glass. He’s over six feet tall. He has black hair, offset by light blue eyes. His cheekbones are even higher than yours, and you fleetingly think that if you reproduced with this man, your children’s faces would be pointed and sharp.

You agree to meet him the following night at a small Italian restaurant around the block called Il Cortile, translated from “Courtyard of the King,” and you laugh when you realize there is something quite kingly about Graydon Kelly.

When he shows up to your date late, you reassess. He’s in a pastel linen button-down and torn jeans. He has on boat shoes, and his curly black hair is a mess. He smells like pine. “Rosin,” he explains. Something to do with his violin.

He takes your hand and leads you to a table in the courtyard. His left hand is callused against yours. Outside, winding, wrestling fig veins grow up the exterior wall, illuminated by white twinkle lights that mimic the stars. He pulls out your chair and sighs into his seat.

He must notice you looking at him, because he smiles. “I look different when I’m not on stage.”

You acknowledge this is true.

“What’s the old adage? Fall in love with Gilda, but wake up to me?”

You fall into conversation, and it’s not the usual, polite, getting to know you babble. Graydon Kelly says odd, irresponsible things like, “You seem like you’re running from something” or “You have an amazing mouth” or the worst, “What do you think of me exactly?”

You only respond to the last comment: a terse, “I’m not sure.” You know this is a lie. You’re wild about every inch of him.

cb185530dd3a381b68d099afca968a3bHe walks you home in a rainstorm, leaving you both soaked and panting on the crooked front porch of the yellow plantation house you rent on Vanderhorst Street. He presses you against the exterior wall and kisses you with his hands in your hair. He smells like rain and marinara sauce with the lingering touch of pine. He tastes like tiramisu.

You invite him to fuck you on the front porch. At this, he falters. Perhaps not the thorn on the rose after all. But he falters only a moment before lifting your skirt, lifting you.

But Graydon Kelly does not fuck. He is an artist. His hips move the way he moves his bow across violin strings. When he comes with his forehead pressed against yours, you’re horrified to realize you could easily love this man.

Later, in your bed, you find him conversational. He makes himself at home. He is comfortable with pillow talk, even with an almost stranger. Again, you doubt your assessments.

He seemed so dangerous in his dark suit at Charleston Grill but so playful in his boat shoes with his messy hair: almost innocent—the kind of man you would take home to meet Mom. His comfort in your bed, though, is his tell, his admission. He does this all the time. He makes love to women he doesn’t know because they ask him to, because of his violin and his face and the strange questions he spouts over champagne.

When you ask about a white scar on his rib cage, he tells you his father used to beat him. One day, his father broke his ribs. One poked through the skin. In Graydon’s words, the bone looked like “a stick dipped in marmalade.” He was sixteen.

His honesty makes you awkward. You feel a need to share something, too, so you tell him you’ve been diagnosed schizophrenic. He doesn’t know what this means, not really, so you explain to him that you see things sometimes—children in white light on sidewalks; grown men covered in red scales. You tell him things have been better since the medication.

d51689d1bace799cc524d87377c06b5eYou expect him to leave, but he doesn’t. He stays until morning. You wake with his long appendages wrapped around you, his nose in your hair.

Then, he disappears. He’s gone for days before you hear from him again. By then, you’ve run the race of emotions and lost. You were cool at first, calm. Then, you missed him and hated yourself for missing him. Then, you were angry, which was when he returned—at the height of your anger.

He tells you he was gone to Nashville for a show. He tells you he travels a lot. You let him kiss you at Charleston Grill, and that night, he takes you back to his apartment: the second floor of a Battery mansion in the French Quarter. The floors are crooked, and his house smells like the sea.

He calls it “The Ballroom.”

It’s just one huge room with a bed in the corner, spotless kitchen, a rack of what appear to be expensive clothes, and finally, behind the only door, a bathroom.

He makes love to you in a grand, encompassing way, with his gaze on your face. You want to shield yourself. You feel like Lot’s wife, turned to salt.

There is no discussion of titles. You are not his girlfriend. When another woman kisses him in front of you, you say not a word.

After that, you allow yourself occasional visits to the Grill to watch him play. Graydon has played since he was eight, taught in Ireland, where he spent his childhood, which explained the accent that circled his vowels when he drank too much scotch. You watch his callused fingers. Your eyes wander down every crease and crevice of his black suit. You picture the way he looks underneath: a sinewy stretch of muscle and pale flesh and wonder how many other women in the room picture the same. You run your fingers down the side of your glass, slick with condensation.

He spends more time at your house. He brings sheet music, composes. One day, as you bring him a cup of coffee, you see your name written in pencil at the top of a page. The sound of musical scales is omnipresent.

You tell him you love him months later, and he frowns. He says, “I told you not to fall in love with me.”

And he did, too, the night you met his rich, Irish mother. In fact, he begged you. He begged you again and again, “Don’t fall in love with me. Don’t fall in love with me.” You were afraid to ask why.

36b4f9bd438941e6923265a4c84d38f4With your newly recognized emotions, you think Graydon Kelly will stop seeing you. Instead, the sex gets even better, almost as if he seeks to fulfill your emotional needs by giving you the gift of his skin. And it is a gift. You suspect he knows it.

You stop taking your meds and end up in a hospital. You don’t remember much. You remember the Grill and violin music. You had one of your hallucinations—a child surrounded by light, then nothing. When you open your eyes, you’re in an uncomfortable bed. Machines beep around you. Your head aches, and the violin player sleeps, slumped in a chair with his hand over yours.

You wake him with your voice, and he seems panicked. His light blue eyes dart around the room. He paces. He wants to know when you ate last. He demands, “When was the last time you ate?”

There is blood on his white shirt. It’s from a wound on your head. Apparently, you passed out and knocked yourself against a barstool. Graydon curls up in the little hospital bed with you, and you run your fingers through his hair.

He tells you he loves you, and now, you understand his earlier request: Don’t fall in love with me. You are panicked to understand you’ve been waiting your whole life for a man to love you. Now one does, and the pressure in your heart equals only the pressure in your bandage-bound head.

His composition is finished by Christmas. It is, in fact, your Christmas gift. He named it for you, and he plays it with his eyes closed. He plays most music with his eyes closed. He says he likes to feel the notes. He says playing music is like drowning, like when you stay underwater too long and feel light-headed, high. He says it feels like that.

You begin to wonder how much he hides from you. You know about his father, dead now ten years. You’ve met his mother, who worships him like the Christ child. He has only one friend: a dreadlocked drummer named Quent with flawless skin and beautiful teeth. Women circle Graydon, always.

Some nights, you stare at yourself in the mirror. You know you are lovely. You have long, chestnut hair. You have multi-colored eyes that resemble flower petals up close. Your cheekbones are high—but not as high as his. As he said, you have a very nice mouth. Despite all this, you sometimes wonder why he chose you. Of all the women in Charleston, he chose to love you.

When you end up in the hospital again, you fight. You had one of your visions. You saw a man with red scales, and you passed out. Graydon does not call you crazy, but he looks strangled. You decide your love is his noose, so you send him away, screaming.

He tells you days later that he slept with one of the nurses. After you kicked him out, he asked her out for coffee and instead fucked her in the hospital parking garage.

You take him back, because he’s not the man in the suit when he admits all this. He’s the man from your first date in the torn jeans and boat shoes. He’s the man with the unkempt black hair and the cloud of pine. He reminds you of home when you hug him and hold him until he stops shaking. He moves into your yellow house permanently.

9ada01c374fb5319d22742c7e841738eAt your wedding, he plays the song he wrote for you. He pays the big bucks to get you a suite at Charleston Place. In your fervor to remove his suit and find him, just him, underneath, you forget the condom.

When you tell him you’re pregnant, he worries his bottom lip. You think he’s going to tell you to get rid of the child. He can’t be a father. Of course he can’t. He travels and plays late nights and drinks too much. As you prepare yourself, though, he leans over in bed and rests his head on your stomach.

He says, “I think I hear Bach.”

Graydon Kelly is a wonderful father, despite everyone’s expectations. He was playing a show in Columbia when you went into labor. He missed Angela’s birth by five minutes but rushed in, hair askew, sweat on his brow, and took your newborn daughter in his hands like a Stradivarius.

He played a new song—a secret song—that he’d written for his little girl to the delight and amusement of the entire obstetrics floor.

He devotes all his emotion to Angela and to you. There are still those nights when you look in the mirror and wonder how you ended up with the talk of Charleston as your husband.

He gets more handsome with age, and you didn’t think that possible. He fills out a little. You enjoy the way his chest expands, the way he makes you feel smaller, smaller. There is less of you now, more of him. His black hair mimics the slick iridescence of a duck’s wing. His eyes darken. His left hand, as always, is callused.

You love how in bed you know which of his hands touches you, right or left.

You love him more than you love your daughter. You would die for him, kill for him. Sometimes you think you never should have agreed to that first date.

But then, he starts composing again, and when composing, he looks like a scungy frat boy. He goes from thirty-eight-year-old celebrity violinist to backwards cap-wearing, finger-chewing, forgets-to-shower little boy. You love him the most when he’s like this. Then comes a new song, and you love him more, more.

02a95a9ae6101647f587e1102ad3acebAngela grows. Graydon decides she will learn piano. She looks just like her father. You feel as though there is none of you in her, as though his dominant features suppressed your own. Your features linger in your empty uterus.

One night, you ask him to fuck you. You don’t want to make love, and he obliges. By the end, you slide over each other, covered in sweat. You pass names back and forth, pants of heated breath. His orgasm is so jarring he leaves fingerprint bruises on the outsides of your thighs.

Since they adjusted your medication, you don’t see the demons or angels anymore. There are no children in white light waiting on the corners of Vanderhorst and King. There are no slinking men with red scales and yellow eyes. No more hospital visits.

You think you are happy. You watch Graydon play with Angela in your backyard. She already far surpasses her piano teacher’s expectations and her father’s. The little girl has long, black hair that curls around her pale neck. She has her father’s fleeting smile, his long fingers. She has his glowing blue eyes.

When he’s on stage at the Charleston Grill, he doesn’t look at you because he enjoys the slow asphyxiation his violin allows. When he is at home, he stares at you, adores you. Then, he looks away. You often wonder if you’ve stopped seeing things at all. Don’t you?

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